Paper Clip Strategy for Productivity: What Is It? Does It Work?

Various hacks and strategies have been shared in an effort to boost productivity. The Paper Clip Strategy is an incredibly effective one that will ensure you never miss a deadline. 

In this article, we discuss how the paper clip can be utilized in ways other than its basic purpose.


What Is the Paper Clip Strategy?

The strategy is named for paper clips, but it’s the core of the approach that is really important. It can be whatever item you have at home or in the office, as long as it is used for the same purpose: to symbolize your completed and uncompleted tasks. 

The Paper Clip Strategy: Explained

This strategy works for quantitative goals. For example, for your health, you want to do 50 pushups every day. For work, you need to send 40 emails per day. This is hard to do all at once, so you break up these tasks in tranches. 

You decide to do ten pushups per set and complete five sets each day. If one paper clip represents one set, you need five paper clips. When you complete one set, you move one paper clip to the “completed” container. The goal is to move all paper clips there. 

The same procedure applies to your work emails. You can use four paper clips (one paper clip for ten emails) or eight (one paper clip for five emails). 

What does a paper clip symbolize? It symbolizes progress—a visual representation of your completed tasks and those left undone. The strategy will motivate you to move all the paper clips to the proper container. 

This is how to build good habits.


How Can I Stick to Good Habits Every Day?

You can’t maintain good habits if you don’t have the right motivation. 

For example, you know that doing 50 pushups daily will benefit your physical health. However, it’s the ability to get up and do them that’s the real issue. It’s the same with the work goal—the more emails you send out, the better it is for your professional career. However, the impetus to complete the task may be lacking. 

The Paper Clip Strategy can make a difference for the following reasons:

1. The Power of Visual Cues

Visual triggers are great motivators, even simple things like paper clips, hairpins, pens, or any other everyday item you choose. Moving one item to signify the completion of a task—and watching as they pile up in one container—is hugely satisfying. 

2. Reminder to Start on Your Goal

The physical objects serve as reminders that you need to get on with your task. With the Paper Clip Game Strategy, you have a daily visual reminder of what you need to get done, which can nudge you in the right direction. 

3. Display Progress

At the start of the day, you will have a container full of “undone” paper clips and an empty one beside it. The more things you accomplish, the more paper clips are transferred to the other container. Every paper clip you move to is a sign of progress, and they will make you feel good. 

This consistent display of progress will motivate you to keep going. 

4. Additive Effect

The visual cues also have an additive effect wherein you feel more motivated when you can see how much you have accomplished. The more paper clips you move to the completed container, the more valuable it becomes for you to finish the task. 


Final Thoughts

Make the Paper Clip Strategy part of your daily life, whether you are creating a habit for your professional advancement or personal gain. The simple objects will motivate you to do more when you see visual cues of your progress. 

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